Good morning and thank you, Premier Cochrane.
I would like to begin today’s briefing by thanking all of our frontline staff who are working to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to our residents and to provide COVID-19 testing in each of our communities. The hours are long and the job is difficult, and I applaud everyone who is a part of it.
Before I provide an update on vaccine delivery, I would like to speak to the Report on Social Indicators: COVID-19 Pandemic that was released yesterday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had and is having a lasting impact on individuals, communities, and governments in the NWT and across the globe. The GNWT response to prevent COVID-19 infection has included a wide range of public health measures to prevent exposure and reduce transmission.
Some of these measures have, directly or indirectly, produced unintended consequences such as social isolation, loss of employment, diminished quality of life, or harms related to substance abuse.
The Report on Social Indicators: COVID-19 Pandemic examines the potential social impacts created by the protective health measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It reports on indicators such as child maltreatment, mental health and addictions, alcohol-related harm, and family violence.
Some key findings of the report’s findings include:
- a decrease in child maltreatment reported during the first phase of COVID-19 response, compared to the prior year;
- residents were accessing mental supports through the health system and anonymous help lines more frequently than community counselling;
- alcohol-related medical visits were higher in May, June and July compared to the same months in 2019;
- admissions to family violence shelters were lower in 2020 than in previous years; and
- the was an increase in the number of Emergency Protection Orders issued during those three months.
When the public health measures were first implemented, the GNWT took action to reduce the risk of unintended consequences by:
- Establishing a working group to identify and interpret a variety of social indicators to examine the social impacts of COVID-19 and public health measures.
- Increasing the number of virtual contacts with children and families to mitigate child protection concerns. We also sent letters to leaders asking them to note any safety concerns in their communities and to report to local child and family services offices.
- Increasing the frequency of our advertising for key services such as family violence shelters, community counselling programs, and help lines, as well as moving to more virtual supports where possible.
- Providing short-term financial support to families who cannot get assistance from other GNWT programs.
- Providing services to vulnerable residents in Yellowknife at the Arnica Inn, Aspen Apartments, and day shelters.
We will continue to monitor and address gaps in communications and service delivery to ensure residents are supported during this pandemic. The data provided in this report will be updated quarterly to reflect the current status and expanded to include other indicators as they become available.
I would now like to update you on the progress we’ve made with our vaccine delivery.
As of January 18, we have delivered 1893 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Northwest Territories. This number is updated weekly, every Monday, on the COVID-19 website along with reporting to the Public Health Agency of Canada. I am grateful to the local health care staff, travelling vaccine teams, community leaders and residents who are working together to protect the NWT from COVID-19. This truly is the Northern way.
Residents can get the most up-to-date information on vaccine clinics by visiting www.nthssa.ca/covid-vaccine. This information is shared with community radio stations, media, local health care staff, community leaders, and on social media to help spread the word to all residents.
Depending on the community, priority populations may be offered the vaccine in phases or all at once. We ask for everyone’s patience if the schedule needs to change due to weather or other logistical challenges. It’s also important to remember that you need both doses of the vaccine – ideally 4 weeks apart – to be considered immunized against COVID-19.
Now that the Yellowknife COVID-19 vaccine clinics have opened up to residents 60 and older, I realize it has been challenging to get through and make an appointment. If you are unable to speak directly to someone or leave a message, please go to www.nthssa.ca and click on “Yellowknife Appointment Bookings” under the “Quick Links” section of the main webpage. There, you can fill out a form to request a callback.
Public health staff is working extremely hard to answer all requests for appointments, and I can assure you that any eligible NWT resident who wants the vaccine will get one.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the residents of Fort Liard who are following Dr. Kandola’s containment order, and to residents across the territory who are coming forward for COVID-19 testing following recent public health advisories. You are setting the example for us all, putting the health and safety of others first. I know how difficult it can be to be away from your loved ones, or to not be able to gather as a community.
I want to remind you that there are ways to connect while physically apart – through phone calls, text messages, or video chats. And, if you need a little bit of extra support, the NWT Help Line is available 24/7 at 1-800-661-0844. All calls are free and confidential.
I will now hand it over to the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, to provide the COVID-19 update.